Yangtze River Cruise 15-19 May 2015

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May 16th 2015
Published: June 9th 2015
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Yangtze River Cruise 15-19 May 2015

The flight from Beijing to Yichang took 2 hours. All went to plan. We all (33 of us) had lunch at the airport. After a 2 hour flight to Yichang, we boarded the Yangtze Gold No 7 ship which had 6 levels. Before boarding the ship, we went to a restaurant for a Chinese meal, stopped off at a supermarket to buy some wine and beer and for an ATM.

We went for a quick walk around the ship to orientate ourselves and then fell into bed in our 6th floor room. The room had a balcony and great facilities. We had a fantastic sleep.

Saturday 16 May 2015

I am afraid to say that the announcement of a Tai Chi class at 6.30am was not attractive to me!! However, at that time, an announcement about the day’s activities came over the loud speaker (which we couldn’t switch off), twice in Chinese and twice in English. This established a pattern of communication until one of us told them it was not necessary to repeat the message. After all, we received a printout of the day’s schedule in our room.

Today’s activities included a shore excursion to the Three Gorges Dam Site. The Three Gorges Dam Site is one of the largest construction projects undertaken by mankind and is the biggest hydropower project in the world. Wow, I say wow! It was an incredible site. And to hear over the next 4 days, the story of the building of the Dam and the displacement of 1.3 million people was a project only the Communists could do.

Our ship hadn’t travelled too far from Yichang before it docked again. We hopped on a bus and went to the interpretive centre. Our guide described the project and answered all our questions. He was very quick to tell us that all our questions will be answered and the Chinese people are very conscious of the global controversy of the project, socially, environmentally but not economically. It was a ‘no-brainer’ if you only looked at the economic issues only.

A bit about the project: As you know, the Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric dam that spans the Yangtze River. The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest power station in terms of installed capacity (22,500 MW). The dam is the largest operating hydroelectric facility in terms of annual energy generation, generating 83.7 TWh in 2013 and 98.8 TWh in 2014, while the annual energy generation of the Itaipy Dam in Brazil and Paraguay was 98.6 TWh in 2013 and 87.8 in 2014.

Except for a ship lift (as they call the locks), the dam project was completed and fully functional as of July 4, 2012, when the last of the main water turbines in the underground plant began production. The dam body was completed in 2006.

As well as producing electricity, the dam is intended to increase the Yangtze River's shipping capacity and reduce the potential for floods downstream by providing flood storage space. The Chinese government regards the project as a historic engineering, social and economic success, with the design of state-of-the-art large turbines, and a move toward limiting greenhouse gas emissions. However, the dam flooded archaeological and cultural sites and displaced some 1.3 million people, and is causing significant ecological changes, including an increased risk of landslides. The dam has been a controversial topic both domestically and abroad.

Our morning tour included visiting excellent vantage points to see the Dam Wall and the ‘Ship Lifts’.

In the evening, we attend the Captain’s Welcome Banquet and enjoy the evening entertainment with a Chinese dancing ball. All the entertainers were staff occupied in waiting, bar, cleaning and management positions during the day. It was a colourful spectacle.

Before the show finished, we went out to watch our ship go through the 1st of the 5 locks up stream. To get through one lock took almost an hour. There were 2 big ships end to end and 2 barges next to the ships, to give you an idea on how much water had to be pumped in and out of each lock. Several times we looked up to the big gates and hoped that the Chinese had engineered the weight capacity of the gates correctly!!!! They were holding back a heck of a lot of water.

Sunday 17 May

Today we enjoyed another cruise on a smaller boat, to see the Lesser Three Gorges - a shinning pearl hidden in remote mountains. They are much smaller, narrower and are surrounded by dramatic scenery. Along the Yangtze River we appreciate the beauty of the Qutang Gorge and Wu Gorge and visit the ancient plank road, Mengliang Stairway and the Hanging Coffins.

We landed at Badong and some of our group travelled to the Shennong Stream via a small wooden boat. There was a local group singing a welcome song when we arrived.

After the mini gorge group returned, we went back to the ship and continue sailing into the western section of Xiling Gorge.

Back on board, we watched a demonstration of the beautiful Shu Embroidery work done in silk, as well as internal snuff bottle painting, both fine art works which are dying out in China. However, there is a lot of effort being put into ensuring this expertise is promoted.

That night on board, there was more entertainment by to staff and a bit of dancing which we enjoyed.

Monday 18 May

Today we had a relaxing morning on board. We also had a presentation on water-pearl manufacturing and a demonstration on group dancing that the Chinese (& Australians) enjoy.

After lunch there was a scheduled shore excursion to the Fengdu Ghost City to see why it’s regarded as the "City of Ghosts". The temples built on Ming Mountain depict the punish instruments and demon paintings, demonstrating the Chinese people’s imagination of hell.

Unfortunately, I had woken at 4.30am that morning with a stomach bug and with no breakfast of lunch except for lemonade and watermelon, plus climbing 400 steps (I only made 180), in the hot humid weather, when I was just about to faint, I decided to turn around and walk down the hill. That was a hard decision for me as both Tom and I missed on seeing the Ghost City. The good news is, by the next morning, I was 90%!b(MISSING)ack to normal.

What was incredible to stop and think about was the understanding that the large mudflaps we were looking at, used to be a large village. Now, on the opposite bank of the Yangtze was a new city of over 1 million people. The mudflaps and concrete banks were about 10 metres high so where was a lot of capacity to raise the water level of this 3rd biggest river in the world.

We returned to the ship and continue to pass through the mountains of Eastern Sichuan. We were noticing that further down the River we travelled, the lower the mountains became.

That night we enjoyed the Farewell Dinner which was the first non-buffet meal for the cruise. They also served sweet champagne which I passed by.

That afternoon we received instructions on our disembarkation for the next day. It was made more complex by the fact that there were 120 of us going to a variety of places in China or going home. In addition, at this time of the year, the Yangtze River was low. In the next couple of weeks they were planning to release water over the dam wall to make room for the monsoon rain. What this meant was that the ship couldn’t cruise to the port of Chongqing to catch the plane to Guiling which was the next stage of our journey. We therefore caught a bus which took 3 hours to get to the airport.

Tuesday 19 May

Our transfer to the airport for our flight went smoothly. The bus trip gave us an opportunity to see more of the mountainous countryside and more construction of new cities, roads and bridges which spanned the big valleys. A big section of our journey was covered with cloud/fog/smog – or a mixture of all 3. We went through quite a few tunnels as well.

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